How Does a Car Subscription Service Work?

Subscription services allow you to get into a new vehicle without the long-term commitment associated with car loans or leases.

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There are several financial methods to get into your next new vehicle. You can either pay outright with cash, get a loan, or sign-up for a lease. Buyers who don’t want that long-term commitment might be interested in a new approach: car subscription services.

What is a Car Subscription Service?

Subscriptions are new to the automotive industry but are common in the tech world. Google Pixel Pass, Apple iPhone Upgrade Program, Apple One, and Microsoft Xbox All-Access bundle a device and service together, promising a cohesive user experience from day one. Car subscription services are similar. Like leasing a vehicle, subscribers pay for the use of the car based on time and mileage limitations. But there are some significant differences.

For a monthly fee, car subscribers get access to a vehicle along with insurance and maintenance. Besides the monthly fee, services have a one-time joining fee. Some subscriptions come with mileage limits. Not every vehicle in an automaker's portfolio is available through a car subscription, and higher performance models can be subject to higher fees. And unlike the traditional forms of car financing, car subscriptions aren’t available in every market and location.

Still, there are some neat perks. Some subscriptions allow customers to swap into a different car with short notice. So, if there’s a family road trip or home renovation project coming up and a coupe or sedan won’t be practical, a car subscription will let you swap into a bigger vehicle that suits your needs.

Which Automakers Offer Subscriptions and How Much Do They Cost?

Volvo, Genesis, Porsche, and Nissan are among the automakers offering car subscription services. Some third-party groups and rental companies also offer car subscriptions.

Care by Volvo is available with any Volvo on sale today, with over a $600 monthly fee (not including taxes or registration fees) for the XC40 subcompact SUV. Other models or trim levels will cost more. There is a mileage limit, but Care by Volvo also includes up to $1,000 of mileage overage as well as vehicle damage protection when you return the vehicle, giving you some peace of mind when it comes to dealing with the realities of car ownership. Care by Volvo also covers the first three scheduled maintenance services and wear and tear items. Finally, the Volvo car subscription allows customers to swap into another vehicle every 12 months.

Genesis’s Spectrum car subscription is only offered in Florida. Similarly, Porsche’s Drive program is available in only 14 cities in the U.S. and has two tiers of service. The multi-car tier service ranges between $2,100 and up to $3100 for a multi-vehicle subscription that provides access to the Porsche 911, Taycan, Macan, Cayenne, 718 Boxster, 718 Cayman and the Panamera. The automaker also offers a single-vehicle subscription for as little as $1,500 (plus a $595 activation fee) for a Macan and up to $3,100 for a 911. Porsche includes detailing in its subscription service and doesn’t have a mileage limitation.

Nissan’s Switch service is only available in Houston for now. It starts at $699 per month for the brand's mainstream offerings like the Altima, Rogue, Pathfinder and Frontier, while an $899 tier offers more interesting vehicles like the Leaf, Murano, and Titan. This service even allows customers to get into the high-performance GT-R coupe for an additional $100 a day with seven consecutive days of use.

Though limited in terms of availability and relatively expensive, car subscription services might work for car shoppers who aren’t sure which car to commit to or what size works for them.

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Sami Haj-Assaad
Sami Haj-Assaad is an award-winning automotive journalist who has contributed to several automotive, electric vehicle, luxury lifestyle, and technology publications. His work isn't just limited to the written word, as he's also hosted YouTube videos and podcasts. Having grown up in the '90s, he has a strong sense of attachment to that era's style, though he also loves to geek out about the modern, futuristic tech and powertrains rolling out today.